Are you one of the 67 percent of Americans who, according to one recent survey, will greet the new year with food-related resolutions?
Whatever your answer, it’s hard to ignore the push for healthier eating that’s dominating food news. The message is clear: We should eat more vegetables, less meat and fewer processed foods.
Meat eaters, relax. You don’t have to swear off your favorite meals, but you’ll want to learn how to build a dinner plate with vegetables at the center instead of on the side. Here are some strategies you can handle:
Pack your pastas or rice dishes or alternative pizzas with vegetables and/or beans. Roasted peppers and onions tossed with a few cups of cooked penne might help convince you. What about orzo combined with a medley of root vegetables and shredded Brussels sprouts? Or how about primavera, that Americanized Italian tradition of mixing spring vegetables with starches? You can blend your favorite diced vegetables into a rice pilaf.
You also can kick off your new virtuous-eating plan by using whole-wheat pizza dough as the basis for creating flatbreads (trending now in restaurants). Steam or saute your favorite vegetables, all cut into bite-size pieces, then deepen the flavor with sauteed garlic, browned onions or roasted peppers. Top small, rolled-out pizza dough circles or ovals. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and season with pepper and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Bake until beautiful. You’ll hardly miss the meat or gobs of melted cheese on a pizza.
Transform your favorite dishes. Shepherd’s pie is perfect cold-weather fare, but it’s not something that registers in the “healthful” range. So top it with a mash of sweet potatoes instead. Make a filling out of curried chickpeas. If that’s not your thing, what about a version with a cabbage and cannellini bean filling? You might even sneak in a little pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon) to bump up the savory-salty quotient. Take the flavors and ingredients in spanakopita, the spinach-filled Greek pastry, and work them into a pasta dish.
Look to old favorites that happen not to have (much) meat. One example: potato salads. Cubed, cooked potatoes can become a great lunch entree when you add cooked kasha (buckwheat) and onions, or chickpeas and lemon zest. Toss with a flavorful vinaigrette.
And don’t forget the stir-fry, a classic vegetarian main course. It’s a method just about every vegetarian cook learns. You can stick with the ginger-soy-sesame trio of greatness or expand into Thai peanut sauces and Vietnamese lemon-grass-infused choices; the seasoning is up to you. Be sure to include something substantial, such as thick slices of mushrooms or small cubes of tofu. If you’re adding meat, a minimal amount of lean ground pork or chicken can go a long way.
I’ve provided a handful of new recipes to get you started. Work them into your repertoire this month, find more healthful vegetarian dishes online in the Washington Post Recipe Finder, and who knows? In time, you might find that your dinners are not only healthier but also a lot more delicious.
Sedgwick writes the weekly Nourish column for Food. Starting in February, she will also tackle a monthly Nourish Makeover, in which she will reconfigure readers’ recipes to make them healthful. Send recipes to email@example.com, with NOURISH MAKEOVER in the subject field.